Early morning, the day after Nazin decided to head out to meet with Demon Lord Krozma. After meeting Titania and arranging things so that the elven warriors would be ready in case of a preemptive strike, Nazin and his girls headed south towards the Demon Realm.
It was a calm and peaceful scene. Light gray mist from the morning dew floated in the air, giving the dim forest an ethereal feel. The faint sunlight that filtered through the forest canopy occasionally clashed with the mist, forming faint rainbows.
Beautiful... if not for the monsters that kept popping up.
A wolf cry broke the silence. Not long after, dark shadows leapt from behind the trees and lunged at Nazin.
Was it because they recognized him as a threat? Or was it because he seemed the most unassuming compared to the rest of the group?
"To think that there'd be a time I got annoyed at not being able to stop Information Concealment..." Nazin wrinkled his nose and then drew the sword hanging from his left side. A flash of silver and white light cut through the air. When it faded, light thumps fell to the ground and the familiar scent of iron filled the air.
But that was only for a moment. Darkness swelled, the shadows from the trees coming to life, and then all traces of the monsters vanished.
Titania shook her head and then looked at Nazin. "No matter how often I see it, I still cannot believe how easily you dispatch of these monsters."
Nazin sheathed his sword. "It's nothing much. I've fought something a lot more powerful in the past."
Saphira nodded. "Of course. After all, if Master can beat me into submission, no other creature in this world can pose a threat."
Nazin frowned and turned back to look at the dragon. "That phrasing is a little... That makes it seem like I purposefully went out of my way to dominate you, Saphira."
The white-haired beauty tilted her head and said, "Was that not your intention? You sent me to death's edge, pulled me back from the brink, marked me as your own, and refuse to let me go even now."
Titania flushed and her eyes flitted between Nazin and Saphira.
Nazin let out a deep sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off his growing headache.
Aria rolled her eyes and then said, "Stop acting cute, you old hag. We're wasting time standing around here."
Saphira turned up her head at Aria and said, "I speak nothing but the truth." She turned to Nazin and gave him a sly smile. "Is that not true, Master?"
"...Whatever." He turned his attention away from the two troublemakers and looked towards Titania. "Where are we on the map now, Tani?"
Titania flinched a bit at being suddenly addressed but immediately focused. After that, she pulled out a rolled up parchment from a bag at her side. Unfurling it, she held it up to compare the surroundings. "We... should be about halfway through the Ancient Forest. In fact..." She tilted her head, as if listening to something whispering to her, and said, "We should be entering the Fae Realm soon."
"Then let's get a move on. Like Aria said, we can't waste too much time."
It was already bad that they had to walk at a normal pace since there wasn't enough room to dash through the forest without knocking down an entire field of trees. Nazin didn't want to waste any more.
So with that in mind, he turned around and started walking before anyone could object.
Of course, no one did.
For a while, the group walked in silence with nothing but the distant chirps of birds to fill the air.
But eventually, Saphira hummed and said, "The Fae... So we will be coming across those mysterious creatures after all."
Nazin glanced back at her. "Something you want to tell me, Saphira?"
She shook her head. "No, Master. I was simply recalling my faint memories." She paused and said, "If I remember correctly, the Fae live in a realm that overlaps this one." She stared at Nazin and said, "It would be wise to be on your guard."
Nazin frowned. "Is it that serious?"
Aria sighed. "I hate to agree with that snake... but I've heard stories about that as well. The Fae are known for enjoying tricks. Not only that, but they're creatures shrouded in mystery that don't live by the normal rules of this world."
Creatures that don't live by the normal rules of the world... That sounded troublesome. But considering how they confined themselves to the forest and seemed to be gone in that future, they couldn't be too powerful.
Titania shook her head. "It should be fine, Lord Nazin. The Fae are a bit mischievous, but it is not as if you are the mortal enemy of the Fae." She paused and said, "Are you?"
"Of course not. I've never even met one. And stop calling me 'Lord Nazin', Tani. I told you, it's just Nazin."
She flushed. "M-My apologies. It is just... Um..."
Titania finished in a small voice. "It's still a bit awkward."
Aria looked between Nazin and Titania. She let out an irritated sigh and said, "If you two are going to flirt, I'm going up ahead." She quickly pushed past Nazin and marched forward.
Nazin coughed and faced the front again, quickly walking after Aria.
An awkward silence filled the air after that.
Nazin did his best to ignore it and focus on his surroundings.
Was it because of what Titania said about the group nearing the Fae Realm? The thin morning mist seemed to be a bit thicker now, giving everything a dreamlike feel.
Nazin frowned and turned his attention back to Aria. She had gone on a bit further ahead, so he didn't want to lose sight of her-
A beautiful young woman with pristine white skin and glowing violet eyes. Long black hair that seemed like it was spun from the night sky and a soft lilac robe with transparent detached sleeves. Beside her, there was a familiar looking elven woman with honey-colored hair.
Like the first woman, she wore a robe. However, whereas that woman's robe was a soft lilac, the elven woman's was regal, a pure black with a golden dragon emblazoned on its sleeves. Not only that, but her expression was different, dark and jaded, as if she had given up on the world. No, as if she saw the world as her enemy.
And then there was Aria, trailing behind them. But she looked different as well.
The Aria that Nazin was used to was a bit mischievous and confident in herself. But the Aria there seemed hesitant, as if unsure if she should be there. Not only that, but whereas Aria normally wore a black dress like the one he originally gave her, that Aria was wearing a silky white dress.
She paused and then turned back around. Did she see his confusion? Aria tilted her head and spoke. "*****?"
Aria's voice called out. "Hey? Are you alright?"
Aria was still looking at him and talking. But she wasn't the one who called out.
Nazin couldn't make out her words, but he could hear her voice.
A tiny difference. Less jaded, more naive.
Nazin shook his head. When he did, that Aria dissolved, turning back into the one he knew.
The young blonde elf frowned and said, "Are you alright, Nazin? you don't have to pretend to be tough for our sake, you know?"
She wasn't standing alone. Titania was standing next to her, along with Saphira.
Did he blank out? Nazin shook his head again and said, "I'm... fine. I just got lost in thought."
Aria frowned, clearly not believing him.
Nazin glanced over to Titania and said, "More importantly, I'm guessing we've entered the Fae Realm?"
Titania nodded. "We have. But..." She looked around and said, "This is a bit strange. Usually, there would be one or two here to greet us. Alvheim has always had a good relationship with the Fae, and as both of us princesses are here, there should be someone to at least say hello."
"But there isn't, huh?"
Nazin went silent, thinking.
Was it a trick?
Titania had made a throwaway comment about him being the enemy of the Fae, but could it be that he had become that because of his powers?
Aria said the Fae were creatures that didn't live by the world's rules. Then, considering that he was essentially the champion of Light and Order from Iggy's gift, the embodiment of the World's Order-
A black shadow cut through the forest.
Nazin's eyes widened and he immediately through up a dark barrier.
The shadow reached the barrier, but instead of being stopped, it pierced through.
"What?" Nazin was surprised, but he didn't stop to think. Seeing that darkness didn't repel it, he drew his sword instead and channeled light mana through it. With that, he swung his sword to clash against the shadow.
It stopped. When it did, the shadow resolved into a person.
A fairly handsome man with silver hair and crimson eyes. Darkness flickered around his body, making him seem ominous. Yet, instead of continuing his attack, the man jumped back and looked around, confusion clear in his eyes.
Nazin raised his sword, taking a defensive stance, and said, "Who are you?" He looked around and saw that Aria and the others were gone. "And what did you do with my companions?"
The man stared at Nazin and muttered, "Miss Faith's Sifu? No, you're different. Then... a doppelganger?"
Nazin blinked at the unfamiliar words. He didn't understand it, but he recognized the cadence and sound of that language. "Chinese?"
The man shook his head and drew his own weapon, a pitch black katana. With that act, darkness surged around him. No. Not just darkness, but an ominous energy that seemed to eat at the mana in the air.
Realizing the danger, Nazin attacked first. He kicked off the ground and slashed, making sure to use light to counteract that person's shadow. But when his sword was about to cut into the man's torso, the man vanished.
Nazin landed on the ground, his sword cutting through nothing but air. He stared at the empty space where the man had just stood and frowned.
"Nazin!" Aria's voice called out from behind him. "Is there an enemy?"
Nazin blinked and turned back around. Aria was running towards him, dark wind swirling around her body. Close behind was Saphira, white lightning crackling at her fingertips, and Titania, who had drawn a pair of long swords, one crystalline blue and the other an emerald hue.
"There was just-" He shook his head and said, "Did you not see that guy who attacked us? A man with silver hair and crimson eyes."
Saphira shook her head. "There was no such person, Master. While we walked, you suddenly attacked the air and then charged ahead."
"...I did that?"
Titania frowned. "Lor- Um... Nazin. Could it be that the Fae are playing a trick on you?"
That... was entirely possible.
Maybe they could tell that his [Absolute Memory] was a foreign power and were on guard against him? No, maybe they wanted to test it out to see if it was truly absolute?
Nazin's frown deepened and he narrowed his eyes. "So you want to play with me, huh?" He glanced to Aria and said, "Pick up Tani, Aria. We're going to blow through this place."
Titania blinked. "H-Hold on a moment, Lord Nazin! You cannot-"
"Enough talking, Tani." Aria walked over and scooped up her sister. "You heard Nazin."
"A-Ari? I can walk by-"
Whatever she was going to say next was drowned out by the sound of swirling wind and crackling lightning.
Seeing that the others were ready, Nazin turned his gaze forward and gathered his own elements. Light, Chaos, and Darkness swirled together, forming a destructive aura that denied any interference.
"W-Wait a moment! L-Lord Naz- Eeeeee!"